Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Introduction to Fiery Isaan Food.

My fellow diners - Clare, Allison and Marelise

I have been hearing great things about Isaan food (the cuisine for the North of Thailand) since I first arrived in Thailand in 2009, yet I have never sat down to a meal at an Isaan restaurant. Well, not until a few nights ago.

The Isaan Provence is located in the North-Eastern Part of Thailand, bordered by Cambodia and Laos on the Eastern sides. The Provence is one of the poorest in Thailand and because of that, the ingredients are more varied and unusual. Sticky rice (served in groovy individual, hand woven pots) is a staple of Isaan food because of it's abundance and because it helps to diffuse the heat of the dishes.

Pork neck and the yummy tamarind (?) sauce
and left over SomTam behind it
The SomTam (it didn't last long)
the plate of greens behind contains greens
like beans and cucumber to cool the mouth

To the meal: spurred into action by the fact that during my brief visit to Sydney earlier this month, my parents seemed to know more about Isaan cuisine than I did (thanks to this article) and that there is a new Isaan restaurant in my town, I finally took the plunge and dined at E-San Inter, the newest Isaan place in town. 

Our Isaan feast was a cacophony of different flavours, spices, and textures. It was amazing, so flavourful and oh so fresh!
Clare serving Allison some Tom Yum Gong

Although I had heard that Isaan food is very spicy and can often be too hot, only the SomTam (spicy green papaya salad) was hot, the rest were fine. Having said that though, I like spice and I have been living in Thailand for 8 months so if you're not usually a fan of spice it may be best to ask for mild on your first visit to an Issan restaurant.

Marelise enjoying some SomTam
and Tom Yum Gong

The meal before we demolished it.
Note the amazing whole fish on the left - YUM!

My favorite dish was the whole grilled fish with a sweet and sour tomato sauce - amazing! The fish was so fresh, it tasted like butter. I also really enjoyed the spicy SomTam made with apple, grape and pineapple instead of green papaya. The fresh, cold, sweet fruit mixed with the salty fish sauce and the spice of the fresh chillis was a fantastic combination.
I also had the best chicken and cashew nuts I have ever had (and Aussie/Thai is full of chicken and cashew so I have eaten my fair share). I can't tell you what they did differently but whatever it was, it worked!

Clare and I mucking around with basil

I am really excited to go back to this restaurant and sample some more delicious Isaan dishes. I have had larb before (I have had catfish, chicken and pork larb) and loved it! Larb is a spicy salad with ground meat, spices and onion. It's really tasty, and remains to be one of my favorite Thai dishes. 
By the time we got to the restaurant they had run out of a few things, like a fried ground fish and mango salad and sun dried pork with a sweet sauce, so you see, I need to go back to try them.

Clare, Allison, Marelise (taking the pic) and I
DOMINATED E-san Inter!


  1. Here's another link for you:

    Spice I Am is supposed to be good, I'll have to make a trip there soon. I usually just go to Sukjai for some sai krok, tom sap, and other foods.

  2. Linda, when I get back to Sydney let's make a date to go to Spice I am. I have never been either and I'm sure you'll be back in Oz by June/July right?